Will real Ticats please stand up?

Tiger-Cats quarterback Kevin Glenn needs to be at his best against the Eskimos Friday night....

Tiger-Cats quarterback Kevin Glenn needs to be at his best against the Eskimos Friday night. (Reuters)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:10 PM ET

HAMILTON - The Canadian Football League schedule says the Edmonton Eskimos play Friday night in Hamilton.

Question is, will the Tiger-Cats show up?

This has been a team that has proven exciting, proficient, living up to Grey Cup contender status one week, then looking like scrubs without a clue the next game. It has all added up to a frustratingly familiar third place in the East Division.

Plus, if both they and the Argonauts lose this weekend, the collars could be getting a little tight. While there were flirtatious innuendos about getting cosy with Winnipeg for first place as recently as two weeks ago, the western Riders are nipping equally close on their heels for a potential cross-over playoff spot.

So, it is logical to wonder who shows up; the Ticats who lost 28-10 to Edmonton in July, or the Ticats who put the skids to head coach Greg Marshall’s Green Riders 33-3 a week later. The Ticats who beat Montreal 44-21 Labour Day weekend at Ivor Wynne Stadium, or the one that lost 43-13 in Montreal, last week.

They’re like that old Bits ‘n’ Bites snack commercial: You never know what you’re going to get. Even the Ticats themselves seem confused by the teeter-tottering outcomes and emotions.

“It’s great to play in this stadium but it shouldn’t make 40 points difference. It’s just us not being mentally prepared. What it comes down to, is that we just have to play better football,” linebacker Markeith Kowlton said after the team’s final walk-through Thursday.

Both teams are looking for a reversal in fortunes after last week with the Eskimos were handed a dose of reality in a 30-20 cuffing courtesy of Calgary.

“I think every team has had a bad game, so it must be a Jekyll and Hyde league,” said a seemingly affronted quarterback Kevin Glenn, in defence of a record that has dipped to an ambivalent 5-5.

Hamilton coach Marcel Bellefeuille mused about changes after the loss in Montreal but in most instances it is injuries that have forced his hand. The offensive line will be without all-star centre Marwan Hage for a second consecutive week, replaced by Mark DeWitt, a practice roster player last season. Belton Johnson is in for the injured Brian Simmons at left tackle and with the injuries mounting, Adam Rogers, has been signed to the practice roster.

Meantime, Bellefeuille continues his season-long jockeying act trying to find a workable solution for a leaky secondary. While Hamilton’s defence is fourth against the rush, it has allowed 3,097 yards passing ‚ the most in the CFL.

“This is a good opportunity. The guys know what happened last week is not what we’re about. Those things happen to every team,” said Glenn. Which is probably true. But they can’t keep happening. They can’t keep happening to a team that considers itself a Grey Cup contender.

Like Hage, Knowlton missed practice every day with an undisclosed injury. Unlike Hage, he said he’ll play and he participated in the walk-through Thursday.

But if he goes down, it gets complicated. Safety Jason Shivers has been practising in Knowlton’s linebacker spot all week and Ryan Hinds would move from corner to Shivers’ safety spot. Newcomer Loyce Means has been working at cornerback, but he is an unknown quantity.

Not exactly the way the Ticats had things drawn up back in training camp. But, with all that moving around, maybe by the time the Eskimos figure out who is where, Stevie Baggs and Ricky Ray will be on their butts, gazing up into the burnished Steeltown sky.

The Tabbies, who rank third in the league with 20 sacks, can but hope...

“It starts and finishes with Ricky Ray. Last game he made some great throws ... and runs,” said Bellefeuille. “We have to keep him in the pocket and limit those explosions (on the ground).”

The good news is that the Ticats are 4-1 at home. Glenn has also been a superb finisher, Hamilton leads the league with 23 touchdowns in 27 chances. As Bellefeulle noted yesterday “that’s 30% better than any other team.” So, said left guard Peter Dyakowski, what’s not to like?

“My first two years we were 3-15 both years. Pretty brutal,” said the five-year veteran. “This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here. There’s just a lot of parity in the league now. It’s just going to be a dogfight right down to the last game.”

WHAT A GUY

Marc Beswick is the perfect Hamilton Tiger-Cats player.

He’s lunch-bucket in a city that loves and lives blue-collar.

“Being successful on special teams is mostly a case of desire and every play he’s going 100 miles an hour,” said head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

Beswick is a testament to fortitude. He leads the league with 17 special-team tackles, one more than Edmonton’s Corbin Sharun. Nobody else in Black & Gold has more than eight.

The St. Mary’s product rarely gets the spotlight. He was a fourth-round pick in 2008 by Winnipeg, which cut him.

“They told me I wasn’t a very good special teams player. So I never got on the roster very much. I never really got a chance to show I could play there.”

Quiet by nature, Beswick has taken over the Hamilton special teams after the retirement of Ray Mariuz and injuries to Dylan Barker and Yannick Carter. “It’s a battle all the way down the field. I love that challenge.”

He filled a void where leadership was needed said Bellefeuille. “I never was a talker but now I kind of have to be that person. I’ve embraced that role,” Beswick said. “Now, they expect me to make plays and that’s kind of a good feeling.”


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